Acai Berry Side Effects, Risks and Interactions

Acai is generally safe, but there are some instances in which you may want to avoid taking it. For example if you are allergic to pollen or to other berries similar to the Acai berry, then Acai might trigger similar allergic symptoms.

Acai Berry Side Effects

There are few known side effects to taking 100% pure Acai berries – just as there are few side effects to eating blueberries or strawberries. However, many companies add other substances to their supplements, such as caffeine, diuretics, colon-cleaning ingredients and sugar, and it is these added ingredients that might cause unwanted side effects. Be sure to check the ingredients label on the packaging for the presence of other ingredients. Fortunately, Pure Acai Berry Max contains no other added ingredients or fillers, so should be free of side effects. All you get is pure Acai.

Interactions With Other Medicines

Like all medicines and supplements – herbal, traditional or conventional – be sure to let your doctor know that you are taking Acai.  There is the potential for interaction with painkilling drugs including NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen or Aleve. Stronger prescription painkillers might also be an issue. Other warnings (and these are general precautions rather than researched contra-indications), include:

  • Don’t combine Acai with other antioxidant supplements without your doctor’s knowledge.
  • Be sure to consult with your doctor first if you’re taking cancer drugs. It’s possible Acai could block their effectiveness.

Risks

  • While not well studied, it has been suggested that Acai might increase the prevalence of high blood pressure, intestinal bleeding, and ulcers.
  • If you’re about to have an MRI, be sure to let your doctor know that you’re taking Acai. It’s possible that it might affect the results of the test.
  • As a precaution, without further study, it might be wise to avoid Acai supplements while breastfeeding.

Chagus Disease

One risk that is often overlooked, is fortunately isolated to the ingestion of Acai juices, mashes and raw berries (not capsules or pill supplements). That’s the potential for the transmission of Chagus Disease (American trypanosomiasis). This risk is the result of the possibility that Acai berries can contain the remnants of Triatomines – blood sucking insects native to South America, Mexico and Texas, that carry a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi. It is this parasite that causes Chagus Disease.

A 2012 study by Shikanai and Carvalho in Clinical Infectious Diseases, found that the processing of Acai berries is often conducted in unsanitary conditions and that Triatomine bugs are sometimes ground up with the fruit when making juice. And, while no instances of Chagas disease has been confirmed in the USA via the transmission through contaminated foods, several studies have shown that it has occurred in Venezuala, Brazil and Columbia.

Pasteurization is the only process that will kill the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite, but the FDA allows fruit juices to be processed using high-pressure, UV radiation or surface sanitation methods – none of which destroy this parasite. As a result, some raw, contaminated Acai juices may sit in the refrigerated sections of health food and grocery stores.

  • If you do wish to drink Acai juice, make sure that the packaging indicates that it has been pasteurized!
  • Fortunately, the process that renders the ingredients of Acai berries into pill or capsule form destroys all parasites. They are safe to take.

References:

1. Tara C. Smith, “Bugs in Your Berry Juice,” Science Blogs – Aetiology, http://scienceblogs.com/aetiology/2012/06/14/1675/

2. Shikanai Yasuda M, Carvalho N. Oral transmission of chagas disease. Clinical infectious diseases.  2012;54(6):845-852.

 

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